Laughter is an indispensable part of Charlie Lester's lexicon. It is his way of saying both hello and good-bye, and in the intervening conversation it becomes his personal exclamation point, an expression of his delight, his surprise, his love for a life that has been both long and laughter filled."

So began a 1982 Emory Magazine profile of Charles Turner Lester '31Ox-'33C-'34G on the occasion of his retirement as executive vice president and dean of faculties, which ended an association with Emory University--as student, faculty member, and administrator--that encompassed more than half a century. Lester's friends and associates will no longer hear his trademark laughter. He died February 15, 1996, at the age of eighty-four.

Lester earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from Emory in 1933 and 1934 and taught at Oxford College for four years before heading north to the Pennsylvania State University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in chemistry in 1941.

He took his freshly minted doctorate to chemical industry giant American Cyanamid in New Jersey, where his research earned him three patents within a year. But he and his wife, Marlyn, disliked living in the heavily industrialized Northeast, and when he was offered a teaching position in the chemistry department at Emory in 1942, he wasted no time accepting it.

In 1954, Lester assumed the position of chairman of the chemistry department. Three years later, President S. Walter Martin asked him to become dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, a position he held for twenty-two years. Under Lester's leadership, the graduate program tripled in size.

To say Dora Helen Skypek '61G was a professor of mathematics--even to note that she was so distinguished in her field that Women in Mathematics Education established an annual award in her name--does not do her justice. For in her nearly twenty years on the Emory faculty, Skypek also devoted much of her time and energy to advancing the cause of women at the University, both within her academic field and outside it.

"Her major contribution to Emory may well be her citizenship," Professor of Religion Jack Boozer noted in 1982, when he presented Skypek with the Thomas Jefferson Award, the University's highest honor for service. Skypek, who retired from the University in 1982, died February 14, 1996, at the age of eighty.

Educated at Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University), Skypek taught mathematics in Florida public and private schools for eleven years. In 1959, when her husband, Charles, accepted a job in Atlanta, where Skypek's Florida teaching certificate was not recognized, she decided to return to school. She enrolled at Emory and received a master's degree in mathematics in 1961.

Skypek's feminist consciousness was pricked at the University of Wisconsin, where she was pursuing a doctorate in mathematics education. She was denied on-campus graduate housing because she was a married woman but her husband was not living with her.

"I remember at the time it made me very angry but also bewildered me," Skypek told Emory Magazine in 1982. "I couldn't understand their logic."

When she joined the faculty at Emory in 1963, she became a thoughtful and determined activist for the rights of both women and minorities, serving on the President's Commission on the Status of Women (which she also chaired) and the College and University Affirmative Action Committees.

Longtime director of religious life at the University, Samuel L. Laird '33C-'44T-'50G, died February 11, 1996. He was eighty-four.

Laird earned his undergraduate degree from Emory in 1933. After spending nine years in the business world, he came to the conclusion that he was better suited for the ministry. He returned to Emory in 1942 to pursue a master's degree in divinity at the Candler School of Theology, where he also served as assistant to the director of religious and student life. When he earned his degree in 1944, Laird was offered the director's job. He retained that position, keeping pace with the changing spiritual needs of students, for thirty-four years.

Throughout his career he attempted to make the Emory community more inclusive by bringing together students of different backgrounds. During the social upheaval of the 1960s, Laird tried to keep the peace on campus, even as the nation was divided by the Vietnam War and racial strife.

"He was a man who always tried to get people talking, a voice of reconciliation," said his daughter Susan M. Laird '71C-'79T.

With his wife, Mary, Laird was instrumental in founding Emory's Senior University in 1979, in conjunction with then-director of Community Educational Services Mary Cobb Bugg. The program, which is designed, coordinated, and taught by retired people, offers seniors the opportunity to take rigorous academic courses and study trips.

Laird, who lettered in football and baseball as an undergraduate, was inducted into the Emory Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

--compiled by Andrew Beierle

Photos courtesy of Special Collections and University Photography

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